Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Perissodactyla
Family:    Equidae
Size:    Height: 47 to 51 inches (1.2 to 1.3 m) or 12 to 13 hands to the shoulder (1 hand = 4 inches/10 cm)
Weight: 450 to 700 pounds (204 to 318 kg)
Diet: Grass, bark, leaves, buds and fruit
Distribution: Africa
Young:  1 foal every 1 to 3 years
Animal Predators:  Lions, leopards, cheetahs and spotted hyenas
IUCN Status: Endangered
Terms: Male: Stallion   Female:  Mare  Young:  Foal   Group: Herd
Lifespan: Approximately 25 years



·       South Africa’s Mountain Zebra National Park was established in 1937 as a sanctuary for zebras.

·       Zebra stripes are like human fingerprints—no two zebras have the same stripe pattern.

·       The scientific name Equus is Latin for “horse.” Zebra mostly likely comes from the Abyssinian word zibra meaning “striped.”

·       A mare with a foal has the highest status within a herd.



Like all zebras, mountain zebras have black and white stripes, but those of mountain zebras are narrower around the neck, and wider on the hind area. Unique to mountain zebras is the flap on their throat, called a dewlap, which resembles an Adam’s apple. Another distinguishing feature is the size of the ears—those of mountain zebras are quite large. Both mountain zebras and Grevy’s zebras have white on their belly, while the plains zebra (also known as Burchell’s zebra) often has stripes that go all the way around. 



Mountain zebras now live in the wild in only two isolated populations—two mountainous areas of southwestern Africa where they are able to find sufficient vegetation on which to survive. 


Feeding Habits

Zebras spend most of the day grazing, eating grass, bark, leaves, buds and fruit. They are usually found near a water source, as they need to drink daily. 



Foals are born year-round, but there is a peak in summer. Mares go through a 12-month pregnancy, and when one is about to give birth, the male stands guard over her while she lies down. The newborn stands in minutes, and within an hour, can run awkwardly, but enough to keep up with the herd. The mother licks the foal all over to clean it after birth, but also to imprint her scent on it, so it can find her again in the herd. The foal begins eating grass within a week, but will keep nursing until it is about 10 months old. Males become reproductively active at approximately five years of age, but leave their mother to join a bachelor group by the age of two. Females usually do not reproduce until they are between four and five years of age.



Mountain zebras live in small herds of one stallion and up to five females. A stallion forms his own herd by enticing young females from the herds they were born into. When a member of a herd becomes sick or lame, the rest of the herd slows down so the slowest member can keep up. They also search and/or call out if a member is missing, until they locate the lost member. At night, while most of the herd dozes, one or more members will stay awake to act as a sentinel. The stallion takes his role seriously—he protects the females in his herd from roaming bachelors, and when pursued by a predator, leading the herd will be mares with foals, followed by mares without foals and the stallion takes up the rear, turning and kicking at the predator in an effort to discourage it from following. The mountain zebra is surefooted when climbing rocks, more so than other zebras.



The Mountain Zebra National Park in South Africa is home to about 130 mountain zebras. They are fully protected within the park, which is also home to eland, black wildebeest, red hartebeest, gemsbok, reedbuck, grey rhebok and caracals. 



Mountain Zebra Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US